Sportscasting & Objectivity

Was thinking about those two things the other day watching the Celtics game. Tom Heinsohn does color commentary for the Celtics games. He is as partisan as they get, a fitting successor (in attitude, if not importance) to Johnny Most. According to Tommy, the Celtics have basically never committed a foul. If another team is shooting more free throws, it’s because the refs are in the bag for ’em. If the Celts are shooting more free throws, it’s justice. He has this attitude towards every facet of the game.

And it’s great. As a Celtics fan, watching on the local network, Tommy is entertaining, which is important for commentators, and I don’t really care whether he’s fair. This made me think about the way that’s sportswriting is changing, which it has been for some while. I think pegging Bill Simmons as turning point in ‘objective’ sportswriting is fair enough. In earlier times, when writing for major publications, writers often pretended that they had no biases.

Nowadays, and since Simmons’ great success in being a total, unapologetic partisan, tons of people write this way. Deadspin, which carved out its role as a primal scream against everything that’s wrong with ESPN (and there’s lots), has a rich history of bashing Simmons while embracing his sort of oeuvre. Same with KSK and the people who write that site. And, of course, these are uncensored Internet site, so people make dick jokes and say fuck a lot.

I think all that’s good. More than anything, Deadspin in its better days and KSK nowadays were/are sustained by writing that’s funny and engaging. But the honest and often profane perspective, which plays a big part in enabling that writing, is important, too.

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